Having trees growing on your property has many benefits, including providing shade, increasing your property value, improving air quality, and even improving your mental and physical health.
That being said, there are also risks to having trees on your property, particularly if they are near any structures.
What should you do if a tree falls on a house? Does insurance cover it?
Let’s look at everything you need to know about what you should expect from your homeowner’s insurance if a tree falls on your home.
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When a Tree Falls On a House: What To Do
High winds, lightning, and heavy rain are common culprits that can cause a tree to fall on your house. Knowing what to do ahead of time is essential to help protect your family and help mitigate damage to your home.
When something unexpected happens, such as when a tree falls on your house, the number one priority is the safety of your loved ones. Have an evacuation plan in place in case of such an emergency. This means your family knows the best exit routes and where you all plan to meet up safely.
It’s also a good idea to have emergency bags packed and ready in case the unexpected happens. These can have essential items like a first aid kit, necessary medication, extra clothes, car keys, copies of important documents, and some cash.
Once your family has safely evacuated, call emergency services and inform them of what happened. They will possibly send out a public utility representative or fire crew to make sure your home is safe.
Even if the branch or tree that fell on your house seems small, don’t try to deal with the problem all on your own. You especially don’t want to climb onto your room while a storm is going on. Rooftops can be slippery from rain, heavy winds can make you lose your footing, or the fallen tree could compromise the structural integrity of your roof.
Contact Your Insurance Company
The next step after a tree falls on your house is to call your insurance company. We’ll take a look at what to expect from your insurance company in the next section.
Find a Trustworthy Roofing Contractor
When something as important as your home’s roof is at stake, finding a trustworthy contractor is vital. Unfortunately, you have to be wary of storm chasers who scam homeowners and take advantage of their desperate situation.
Having a good, local roofing contractor picked out ahead of time in case of such an emergency can help you avoid having to make a less-than-ideal choice. You don’t want to be in a position where you have to take the first contractor you can find.
Secure Your Home
If the damage to your home is substantial enough, you might not be able to live there right away. If you’re staying elsewhere while the repairs are made, make sure to lock all your windows and doors. Secure anything valuable on the off chance that someone breaks into your home.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Removal After a Storm?
Whether or not tree removal is covered by your insurance has to do with where the tree fell and what caused it to collapse.
If a tree falls because of wind, fire, lightning, riot, explosion, aircraft, vandalism, theft, or vehicles you don’t own, insurance will likely cover tree removal. This is true in both the case that a tree falls on your home and if it falls on your lawn or empty property space.
Similarly, if a flood or an earthquake causes a tree to fall anywhere on your property, including your home, this won’t be covered unless you have special extra coverage.
If a storm, ice, or hail takes a tree down, the removal will be covered if the tree falls on your house. If a tree falls on your lawn or empty space in these same circumstances, however, your homeowner’s insurance most likely won’t cover it.
In these instances, if a tree falls on a shed or any other structure of your home, this would be covered the same as if it fell on your primary residence.
What should you do if your neighbor has a diseased, defective, or dying tree or potentially hazardous limbs that could fall onto your property? You first want to talk to your neighbor, explain the situation from your perspective, and ask them to fix the problem. Then you’ll want to send them a letter putting them on notice for the hazardous tree.
It’s a good idea to take photographs and document the problem tree. Please keep a copy of your letter and send it through certified mail.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Damage to My Home?
If a tree fell on your house, a typical homeowner’s policy will help pay for repairing the damage. The insurance company will decide whether the damage was caused by negligence or a maintenance-related issue. However, this won’t affect your insurance coverage for the loss. With that said, it is still a good idea to do preventative maintenance on your property to avoid potential claims. For example, if you have old or rotting trees on your property, having them taken down before the next storm is a very good idea.
Neighbor’s Tree Fell On My Property: What Now?
If a neighbor’s tree has fallen on your property, you might be worried that this complicates your coverage. Actually, though, your homeowner’s insurance should still cover the removal in all the same instances they would if it had fallen on your property.
It’s possible that your insurance company will try and go after your neighbor’s insurance company to recoup their losses.
It’s also important to know that if a tree fell on your car from your neighbor’s property, the removal will likely only be covered if it’s due to lightning, riot, explosion, aircraft, vandalism, theft, or vehicles not owned by you. This is because cars are not typically included in homeowner’s policies and, therefore, would be treated as “empty space.”
How Much Does Insurance Pay Towards Tree Removal?
When a tree falls on your property, contact your insurer to learn how much coverage you’ll receive based on the circumstances of the claim.
If the tree falls on your house or another structure, your home insurance policy will likely completely cover the removal of the tree from the structure. If the tree has fallen in “empty space” and not on a structure or a vehicle, contact your insurance agent or check your policy to find out how much coverage you’ll receive.
How Much Does Homeowners Insurance Cover For a Structure Damaged By a Tree?
The answer to this question is going to depend on your specific policy. When you set up your insurance policy, you agree to certain coverage limits. These are what determine how much money your insurer will spend repairing your home from tree damage.
Your limit is the maximum dollar amount your policy will pay for any covered claim. It is possible and likely that you’ll have separate coverage limits for dwellings and other structures on your property.
Dwelling coverage is what helps cover the repair costs if a covered peril has damaged your home. Covering other structures helps pay to repair any other structures on your property, for example, a fence or a shed.
Here’s an example. If you set your dwelling coverage limit for $400,000 when you purchased your policy, then your policy might help you pay up to $400,000 to rebuild or repair your home. Don’t forget that you’ll be responsible for paying your deductible, which you typically choose when you purchase the coverage.
Choosing home insurance for your property is something that you want to do right the first time. It can be a good idea to do an annual check-up into your policy to make sure that you have the coverage you need. If there have been changes in your property, family size, or the worth of your possessions, you might want to make changes to your policy.
Should You File a Claim?
You’ll want to consider your deductible when deciding whether to make an insurance claim. If your deductible is $1000, filing a claim for one fallen tree that caused no damage wouldn’t make sense. On the other hand, if a tree did damage to your home that will be costly to fix, the cost-effective option is likely to file a claim.
Taking a good look at your insurance plan is important when it’s time to decide whether or not to make a claim. Take the time to learn whether or not making a claim will raise your premiums.
You also might not want to make a claim if you recently made a different homeowner’s insurance claim. If you file too many claims in a short period of time, your insurance company might opt not to renew your policy. This means they can drop you as a policyholder as they deem you too high-risk.
Unfortunately, your claims activities will follow you from one insurance company to another. This is because insurance companies have access to something called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE. This database includes all the information about the date, coverage amount, and damage your insurance company paid out.
This means that even if you try to get a new insurance company because of raised premiums at your current company, you won’t necessarily be starting with a clean slate.
How to Recognize a Tree Hazard On Your Property
While some events in our lives come out of nowhere, it’s best to prevent avoidable disasters. This means that if there are trees that are hazardous on your property, you want to take care of them before they come down on their own.
One of the most obvious and visible tree hazards is if there are broken or hanging limbs. Sometimes, it takes a professional tree inspector to see splits and cracks in limbs to know just how severe the damage is.
Dead limbs are another thing to look out for in the trees in your yard. These can sometimes be hard to spot, especially in the winter, and pose a fall risk.
Another thing to look out for is changes in the tree bark. While you might be able to detect this yourself, you may want a professional to take a look. They’ll have a better sense of whether or not changes in the bark indicate a problem.
An obvious thing to look out for is trees that are leaning in a problematic way. A leaning tree isn’t necessarily unstable, but it is something to ask a professional about if you’re unsure.
Root damage is another thing that can lead trees to become hazardous. If there has been recent construction on or near your property, it’s possible that your tree’s roots were damaged in the process. Wilting, thinning foliage, dead branches, undersized leaves, and limited growth are all signs that the roots of the trees might be damaged.
Lastly, keep an eye out for trees that are exposed and weekend. If your lot has been cleared, leaving only a few trees standing, these trees are not used to being so exposed. Without the windbreak they previously had in the form of the other trees, these remaining trees are much more susceptible to wind damage.
Checklist to prepare for a Classic Nor’Easter Hurricane or Tropical Rain Storm, Now You Know What to Expect
When something unexpected and destructive happens on your property, it can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. This is why it’s vital to understand the contents of your homeowner’s insurance policy before disaster strikes.
Preparing for a hurricane is crucial for the safety of your home and loved ones. Here’s a comprehensive checklist to help you get ready:
1. Personal Safety and Evacuation:
- Know Your Evacuation Zone: Familiarize yourself with local evacuation routes and determine where you’d go.
- Plan a Safe Location: This could be a friend’s or relative’s house, a hotel, or a designated storm shelter.
- Prepare an Evacuation Kit: Include essentials such as medications, critical documents (e.g., ID, insurance, birth certificates), a change of clothes, water, non-perishable food, cash, and a battery-powered radio.
2. Home and Property Preparedness:
- Secure Windows and Doors: Install storm shutters or board up windows with plywood.
- Secure Outdoor Items: Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, toys, and tools. Anything left outside can become a projectile.
- Check Gutters and Drains: Make sure they’re clear to prevent flooding.
- Turn Off Propane Tanks: Secure them if possible.
- Elevate Appliances: Raise appliances and utilities above potential flood levels if you’re in a flood-prone area.
- Water Barrier: If you live in an area prone to flooding, consider using sandbags or water barriers to block water.
3. Supplies and Essentials:
- Water and Food: Have at least a three-day supply. This includes 1 gallon of water per person per day and non-perishable food items.
- Medications: Stock up on prescription and over-the-counter medicines you might need.
- Flashlights and Batteries: Avoid using candles, which can cause fires.
- Battery-Powered Radio: For storm updates.
- First Aid Kit: Stocked with bandages, antiseptics, and other essentials.
- Hygiene Products: Like wet wipes, hand sanitizers, and personal hygiene items.
- Multi-Tool or Swiss Army Knife: Useful for various tasks.
- Important Documents: Keep in a waterproof container. These should include insurance policies, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security cards, and other personal documents.
- Clothing: Include warm clothing, sturdy shoes, and rain gear.
- Chargers: Have a backup power source for your mobile phone, such as a power bank.
- Local Maps: To help navigate if GPS systems fail.
- Stay Informed: Monitor local news, weather channels, and official announcements.
- Family Communication Plan: Ensure every family member knows how to reach each other and where to meet up.
5. Special Considerations:
- Pets: Have a pet evacuation kit, which includes pet food, medications, leashes, carriers, and vaccination records. Familiarize yourself with pet-friendly shelters or hotels.
- Medical Needs: If someone in your household relies on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, review your family’s emergency plan and consider how to maintain power to that equipment during an outage.
6. After the Storm:
- Stay Informed: Listen to local news and weather stations for updates and instructions.
- Avoid Flood Waters: They may be electrified or contaminated.
- Inspect Your Home: Check for gas leaks, damaged electrical systems, and structural damages. Document any damages for insurance.
Remember that preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm should be done well in advance of any warnings or watch alerts. Waiting until the last minute can be both dangerous and stressful.
Is it time for you to set up a homeowner’s insurance policy? For more information, contact your local insurance agency, LoPriore Insurance Agency.
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